After spending the fall as direct support for Yellowcard, pop punk heroes The Wonder Years were eager to return to more intimate settings. For their current headlining run, they called upon some of their best friends (and common tourmates) in Fireworks, Hostage Calm and Misser to hit up smaller venues in B-markets (so as to not interfere with their main stage slot on this summer's Warped Tour). I attended the second date of the tour, which took place at Pawtucket, Rhode Island's The Met on March 9th.
Having seen them threetimesat larger locations throughout 2012, it was thrilling to see The Wonder Years back in a small club. Upon selling out the 600-capacity venue, the band had the option of upgrading the venue to the significantly-larger Lupo's in Providence, but they chose to keep it intimate. As a result, stage dives, pile ons and sing-alongs were in full effect throughout the hour-long set, even with six musicians crammed on the little stage.
Since the band had just announced their highly-anticipated new album, The Greatest Generation, a few days prior, I was hoping they would preview a new song. They chose not to, but it's hard to complain after such a strong performance. The set featured most of the fan favorites they've been playing since the release of Suburbia, along with a few deep cuts ("I Won't Say the Lord's Prayer," "It's Never Sunny in South Philadelphia," "Summers In PA") to keep things interesting.
The band exited the stage after "And Now I'm Nothing," an apropos closer, but they weren't finished yet. Frontman Dan "Soupy" Campbell and guitarist Casey Cavaliere returned to perform "Living Room Song" (electrically, for a change) with lively crowd participation. The other members then reappeared for "Came Out Swinging" and "All My Friends Are in Bar Bands." For the latter, Fireworks' Dave Mackinder and A Loss For Words' Matty Arsenault (who was there as a guest) joined Campbell, as they do on The Upsides, to sing the closing. They also allowed the crowd to join in, and the rabid fanbase enjoyed every second of it.
Fireworks came out strong with two of my favorite tracks, "When We Stand on Each Other We Block Out the Sun" and "The Wild Bunch." This energetic opening compelled the previously-apprehensive audience to ignore the venue's "No stage diving" signs. (Thankfully, the threats of being thrown out proved to be untrue.) The crowd continued to go hard for the entirety of the band's 45-minute performance.
Although he's not listed as an official member, Fireworks were once again joined by an additional musician, Adam Mercer (who was also with them on last year's Warped Tour). His contributions included keyboard, guitar, percussion and vocals as needed, adding an additional dimension to the group. Meanwhile, Arsenault joined the band for their performance of "Come Around." The set culminated with "Detroit," an anthemic number that makes for a perfect closer.
Although not everyone in the room was familiar with them, Hostage Calm's half hour set provided plenty of crowd sing-alongs. The audience was particularly emphatic for into to "The M Word," the catchy "Woke Up Next to a Body" (for which Tym of Some Stranger/ex-Daytrader sang guest vocals; an unexpected treat) and set closer "Patriot." The band just started playing the latter live for this tour and, based on fans' unanimously positive reaction, they'll be keeping it in their set.
I'm a longtime fan of Transit and also enjoyed This Time Next Year, so I was excited to see Misser opening the tour. The project was created by Transit guitarist Tim Landers and former TTNY guitarist Brad Wiseman, and their live line-up also features Torre Cioffi (Transit), Mike Ambrose (Set Your Goals) and John Dello Iacono (Code of Kings). They received a strong reaction for openers (even bigger than that of Hostage Calm, although that can be attributed to the fact that 3/5 of the bi-coastal line-up is from nearby Massachusetts).
Their half hour performance kicked off with the killer intro, "Permanently." It seemed like a missed opportunity not to play "Time Capsules" immediately after, as it follows on the album, but they did play it later in the set. In addition to material from their full-length debut, they also busted out an older track ("Just Say It") and a new song ("Gaddamn, Salad Days"). They ended with "I'm Really Starting To Hope The World Ends In 2012," which transitioned into a unique take on Taylor Swift's "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" (perhaps ironically, considering the song's subject matter) followed by a bit of jamming.
The Wonder Years put forth all of their energy at every show, but there's something special about seeing them in a small club. Both the band and the fans relished the intimate setting. Adding a strong line-up of genuine musicians - really, any band on the show could have headlined to a solid turnout - was merely the icing on the cake. Don't miss this tour if it's coming anywhere near you, because The Wonder Years probably won't be playing venues this small for a while.